Friday, January 23, 2015

Politicians do such a great job protecting their contributors.

In the waning days of 2013 legislative session bills were moving along to aid the nascent craft brewing industry in Texas. This was the perfect time for powerful beer distributors working with Senator Corona from Dallas to slip in a provision that required breweries to grant exclusive rights to a distributor for selling beer to retailers and bars in a particular territory. The new law prevents the brewery from charging for those distribution rights,  but once the distributor has acquired the rights- they can sell them to another distributor. This is a nifty way to remove millions in potential income from  small Texas brewers and redirect that opportunity into to pockets of the distributors.

I will go so far as to suggest there are political contributions involved here somewhere. I also know there was and is an attorney involved who is ready to obfuscate; ready to  make this sound quite beneficial to Texans. But this doesn't sound or smell like "free market" economics to me.

This little story is from a great write up  by Edward Brown in the Fort worth Weekly. He provides many more juicy details and, like a good reporter gives every involved party a chance to respond to the story.

Here Edward Brown puts the issues succinctly.
State Sen. John Carona of Dallas added the provision to Senate Bill 639 at the behest of Wholesale Distributors of Texas at the last hour of a lengthy negotiation session in March 2013. Others involved in the negotiating process said they felt they had to accept that provision in order to get helpful legislation passed.

It is essential that we read stories like this; understand who is dissembling and why; and who is avoiding responding, and hold them accountable. It is hazardous times in America, when reporters and journalists struggle to make a living; and the lobbyist and the politicians, feeding at the troughs of the wealthy and powerful, are flourishing. This is not sustainable. We cannot perpetuate this kind of activity and have effective and fair  representative government. We are headed for a plutocracy, rather more a kleptocracy- at a steady glide path.

That is a clear case of using legislation to aid a special interest- at least in my eyes. And some day, small brewers in Texas will ante up and be able to play hard ball with other interests; but it really is too bad that power is bought and sold in Texas, and by no means- just Texas; by having the money to get it done.

And is this the most egregious case of catering to special interests in 2013? Most likely not. That is part of the problem. This issue is banal and boring, yet so dangerous. Then you add up all of them, and we should feel threatened.

And who needs influence but has none?

Kids and moms have few advocates in Austin. Teachers don't get nearly as much support as the need; in fact, their interests are constantly atacked by special interests with the money to bring to bear for their own special interests which hinder and hurt public school.

So how do we change this?

We need to pay attention and give due respect to the newspapers and the reporters who are nosing around in this arcane and opaque world of influence. And that is easier to say than to actually get done.

We do, as citizens of Texas, have to stop accepting assaults on our interests. Using the words of Dr. Jef Hood, we have to become "maladjusted to injustice' This type of activity has to be found intolerable.

We need a line drawn in the sand, and we need to watch the line with regular attention. And we need to squawk when it is crossed. Politicians, in the end, have to have the votes from the people. We pay attention and they will pay attention.

We, who read articles like this, and understand the implications, and understand the importance of changing where we are heading; and understand that all the other pseudo emergencies pale as you take a longer view; must speak up and pay attention, and draw attention. We must help people see the trends and the ultimate consequences of those trends.  Close attention is essential. We must support and empower the journalists involved and the publishers who support them.

I guess one small step is to champion good journalism like this piece by Edward Brown. Why don’t you read it and share it, and think about the forces at work. This is not championing of FREEDOM. This is not championing of free markets. No instead,  FREEDOM and FREE MARKETS are used in a word "shell game" to cover up and obfuscate what is actually done. The results help special interests but  damage the interests of Texans, and hinder competition and fair play and free markets in Texas.

Politicians follow the political winds like a reed tossed in the breeze. We shine the light and illuminate what they do, and they will scramble for cover. When they cannot find cover, they will do differently or retire from public service.  We can make it much more hazardous to be so blatantly disrespectful of the public interest. Lets support journalists and publishers and watchdogs and every sheep dog paying attention, and we can change the trends. We can take back state government.

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